November 21st, 2011 by Glenn Sacks
A Florida bill has been introduced to abolish lifetime alimony and clean up other abuses within the system, similar to the alimony reform bill recently passed in Massachusetts. One of Florida’s largest newspapers, the Orlando Sentinel, attacked the bill as a windfall for “wealthy men who cheat on their wives.”
Many Fathers and Families members have experienced the injustices of the current alimony system firsthand–we ask that you write a Letter to the Editor of the Sentinel by clicking here and/or comment on the bill here.
A Low-Rent Attack
Sentinel columnist Scott Maxwell employs anti-male stereotypes in his piece In new alimony bill, wealthy, cheating men could pay less, and informs us that the bill is “anti-woman,” ”unconstitutional,” “radical,” “Draconian,” etc. In a state where alimony obligors are often unable to retire at a normal age because they must continue to pay alimony, Maxwell is somehow unable to come up with any family law experts who like the bill.
Ritch Workman, the bill’s sponsor, is working with the group Florida Alimony Reform, and says he’s trying to make alimony fair, explaining, “[a] short-term marriage ending in long-term alimony is a mistake.” Maxwell feels compelled to tell us that Workman recently finalized his own divorce and that “several other local legislators are also divorced or currently going through one.”
Maxwell criticizes HB 549 because it “would allow previous divorce agreements to be reopened and renegotiated.” However, if this weren’t part of the bill, how could one end lifetime alimony for the aging obligors who are chained to it?
Maxwell tells us:
Orlando attorney Amy Goodblatt also expressed concerns about Workman’s proposal to automatically terminate alimony payments when the payer reaches retirement age.
“It’s clear this legislation has an agenda,” she said. “This statute is very, very much aimed at protecting men.”
True or not, Maxwell does not share with us why is a problem.
Fathers and Families’ Current Alimony Legislation
Fathers and Families has been involved in alimony reform in California and Massachusetts, with some success, and we are accustomed to seeing attorneys and misguided women’s groups mischaracterize efforts to balance the spousal support system
Our latest reform bill, California SB 481, will curb the common family court practice of issuing “double dipping” spousal support orders. ”Double dipping” is when the same stream of income is counted twice in a family law action — once for purposes of valuing that income stream as a division of property, then again for spousal/partner support purposes when the spouse/partner receives the income in the future.
NOW Opposes Alimony Reform
The National Organization for Women has come out against SB 481, but we’ve lined up a great deal of support from influential California political organizations who realize that this is not a gender issue, including: the Family Law Section of the California State Bar; the Association of Certified Family Law Specialists; numerous prominent family law and accounting firms; and others.
SB 481 comes on the heels of SB 1482, an alimony reform bill we helped pass last year. SB 1482 allows some alimony obligors to obtain court orders requiring vocational examinations for their exes, and mandates that judges follow the exams’ findings when determining spousal support levels. Both SB 481 and SB 1482 are sponsored by Senator Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood).